I’ve just been looking at the “Kevin07” website. I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. It’s good that politicians are trying to engage their audience in new ways, but doesn’t this all seem a bit cheesy? It’s very patriotic; bright colours, videos of supporters, news… it serves its purpose, I guess. But there’s something commercial about the site which I find off-putting. I know that selling these T-shirts and stickers is a way of showing support, but it seems to trivialise the rest of the site as well.
It also feels very American to me. Not that that’s a bad thing; just makes me feel like I’m looking at Hillary Clinton’s or Barack Obama’s 08 website instead of Kevin Rudd’s. The Kevin07 slogan and “Get Involved” feel more like something from the US as well, and the site’s dominated by red, white and blue… I just feel like I’ve seen it before. I imagined something more unique for Rudd’s campaign, more green and gold… but I guess imitation is the highest form of flattery.
Still, it’s smart. The site speaks directly to Gen X and Y, using a forum they’re familiar with to talk about issues they care about. The simple truth is that every politician needs a web presence now or they’ll be left behind; people will write them off as not being savvy enough. It’s a necessity, but there is practical value in it as well. The whole success of Web 2.0 and YouTube is that they provide content on demand; we can see whole interviews and aren’t just left with what the media wants us to see. For politicians that means avoiding 30 second snippets and being taken out of context, so it’s no great surprise they’re pushing these campaigns.
WC wrote an interesting post the other day which ties into this, about how Hillary Clinton’s ‘cleavage incident’ was portrayed in the media. Really, it was a storm in a teacup, but for some reason the media in the US and overseas (our news as well) just wouldn’t let it go. Some thought her sense of dress wasn’t appropriate, others thought she was being objectified for being a woman – and yet the media can only blame themselves, really, as they brought it down to that level, not anyone else. The thing I noticed was that Clinton seems to be trying to soften her image, wearing paler colours, etc, trying to be more accessible. I think that’s clever; it’ll be interesting to see what her image is like closer to the primaries, and if people have accepted it.
Image seems to matter so much these days. It’s not just about accessibility, but how you can hold someone’s attention for the message you want to deliver. Rudd’s site is all about projecting the right image, and so are the videos Howard has released on YouTube recently; both are trying to promote themselves as the best choice for the future. So given that, it’s sad that a news story of substance was mostly overlooked amidst the fuss of Kevin07’s launch. The Seante just passed a 6.7 per cent salary increase for MPs and senators, while voting against subsidising a rise for pensioners’ income. It means that backbenchers’ pay will now rise by $8000 to $127,000 a year, Kevin Rudd’s to $235,000 and John Howard’s to $330,000 – while pensioners live off $13,652 a year. It’s disgraceful. On the day politicians talk about providing for the future, they reward themselves and turn their backs on the people who most need their help. Amidst all their images, speeches and promises, perhaps that’s what we should remember more than anything else in the lead-up to the election.